If you or a loved one is injured in a New Jersey car accident, you may be considering a claim against the at-fault party to recover losses like medical bills, lost income and other damages. In this blog post, we’ll review the steps in a car accident lawsuit.
Steps in a New Jersey Car Accident Lawsuit
The sooner you contact a New Jersey car accident lawyer, the better your chances at recovering maximum compensation in your claim. Keep in mind, you can get in touch with an attorney at any point in the process. Generally, once the initial medical emergencies are dealt with, the steps to pursue compensation after a car accident include:
Seek Medical Care
Your first order of business in any emergency, should be to call 911 and seek help. Even if you believe your injuries may be minor or if symptoms start to develop after the accident, get medical help as soon as possible. Not only does medical care start the healing process but it also provides documentation and evidence of your injuries for your claim.
Report the Accident
Under New Jersey’s Division of Motor Vehicles law, if a driver is involved in a car accident, he or she is required to report it to law enforcement if the crash involved more than $500 of property damage or injury. In other words, if you’re ever in a car accident and it looks like the property damage is at least $500 or someone is injured, you must report the crash to the police. Given the price of even a minor repair these days, $500 is a low threshold, so it’s always best to call the police to the scene.
If the police do not investigate or come to the accident scene, you have 10 days to file a self-reported crash report with the New Jersey Department of Transportation. You can file a report online or download a form and mail it in. Failure to do so could result in loss of driving or registration privileges in the state.
You will also need to report the accident to your insurance company. Keep in mind, you do not have to immediately give a recorded statement. And, you should be pressured into accepting an early settlement. Contact an attorney to discuss your case before the recorded statement.
Photographs, witness statements, police reports, electronic evidence, and victim testimony are all highly effective and typical types of evidence in a car crash. Take photographs of the accident scene, if possible. Document your injuries through photographs and a journal – both of these types of evidence can be powerful in swaying a jury. Medical records serve as evidence of your injuries and your prognosis for recovery.
Hiring an experienced New Jersey car accident lawyer will allow you to focus on healing while your attorney does the heavy lifting of gathering much of the evidence that will be needed in your claim. Don’t hesitate to contact a skilled attorney like Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, for a free consultation.
Reaching Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
It's important that you reach what’s termed maximum medical improvement (MMI) before settlement negotiations begin. MMI is the point at which you have fully recovered from your injuries and go back to your life. However, in the cases of serious injury, MMI may be the point at which continued medical treatment is unlikely to improve your condition. This is not to say that you may not need continued medical care to have the best quality of life possible.
In cases of serious injury, if you reach MMI but will still require medical treatment and continued care, you will want to seek compensation for these anticipated future expenses. Further, you can seek compensation for lost future earnings if your injuries will prevent you from working or going back to your same job in the future.
If you accept a settlement without reaching your MMI, you may not receive enough compensation to fully cover your expenses in the future. You need a full understanding of your prognosis and what to expect in the future before you should accept a settlement offer.
Negotiation Starts with the Demand Letter
A demand letter typically starts the process with an insurance company or other party to formally state your injuries, evidence of liability, and demand for monetary compensation. Demand letters seek specific monetary compensation amounts, including property damage, medical expenses, loss of income and other tangible damages. Additionally, your New Jersey car accident attorney may recommend that you seek non-economic damages for losses like pain and suffering.
After negotiations begin, some cases are able to be resolved before a formal lawsuit is even filed. If that is not the case and a lawsuit is filed, the lawsuit process typically follows the following format:
- More evidence and discovery. Both sides may obtain further evidence to bolster their case, obtain expert witness testimony and/or require depositions of victims and witnesses.
- More negotiation. Throughout the lawsuit process, negotiations may be ongoing to come to settlement terms.
Settlement or Trial?
While the vast majority of car accident lawsuits are settled before reaching a trial, it does happen especially for high value claims. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car crash, it's in your best interest to hire a New Jersey car accident lawyer with trial experience and a track record of results.
After a settlement is reached or a lawsuit is won, the injured victim will receive a financial compensation award. Each settlement is unique. The type of payment structure, what fees and expenses may be taken out of the settlement and how long it takes for the settlement check to arrive all vary depending on the case. Typically, this process takes a few weeks to a few months.
How Long does a New Jersey Car Accident Lawsuit Take?
The length of time for a New Jersey car accident lawsuit varies from a few months to even a few years. Factors that determine how long a car accident lawsuit may take include:
- Severity of injuries
- How long it takes to reach MMI
- Availability of evidence
- Number of parties involved
- Cooperation of insurance company
While the legal process may feel long and never-ending, patience is one of the key ways to maximize your compensation.
Contact Our New Jersey Car Accident Lawyers for Help
While the car accident claim lawsuit may take some time to resolve, don’t let the time frame deter you from seeking the compensation and justice you deserve. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident that you believe was caused by another person's negligence, contact Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law and speak with a skilled New Jersey car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Our firm has an in-depth knowledge of personal injury law resulting in years of experience and proven results. We pride ourselves in being able to provide clients with the passionate representation they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.